Read Wormwood Dawn (Episode I) Online

Authors: Edward Crae

Tags: #zombies

Wormwood Dawn (Episode I) (7 page)

BOOK: Wormwood Dawn (Episode I)
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But Gary was gone.

He sighed, catching his breath. That was it. She just couldn’t live without Gary. They were inseparable; apocalypse partners. And now, they were partners in death.

“That was fucked up, man,” Drew said, finally recovering from his puking spree. “Jesus. What a fucking… ugh… what a… something. Fuck.”

Dan was still speechless. All he could picture was Linda’s head exploding and her brains flying against the wall like fireworks. It would be something he would never forget, no matter how hard he tried.

After a few minutes of silence, he caught his breath, turning to look at Drew. He was sitting on the top step with his head in his hands, breathing slowly and deeply.

“Well, you heard the lady,” Dan said. “We can take anything we need.”

“No shit,” Drew said through his hands. “I need to take a Valium… or, maybe a shit.”

Dan went straight to the cupboards; wordlessly shoving cans into his open backpack. Drew joined him, going for the drawers and the tall pantry. In a few minutes, they were loaded up with all the canned and dry food they could carry. Dan draped his backpack over his shoulder and looked around. There were probably other things they could take. Gary had a shit ton of guns, but their backpacks were already full.

“Let’s go throw these in the truck and search around some more,” Dan said.

Drew nodded wordlessly, and the two went outside. They tossed their packs in the seat and headed back in; this time avoiding the living room. Dan knew that Gary kept his guns in his den—with the exception of the shorty shotgun Linda had just used to blow her brains out. Fortunately for them, the den was unlocked and Gary’s gun cabinet was open.

“Jesus Christ,” Dan exclaimed as he opened the huge steel door.

Drew went wide-eyed as he stared at the rack of rifles. “Now
that’s
a stash,” he said.

There were rifles of all sorts; bolt action long rifles of various calibers, AR-15s, an assortment of handguns, and even a big Barrett M85 with an infrared scope. Dan pulled out the Barrett, holding it up like Gollum held the One Ring.


Myyyyy prrrrrrrecioussssss!”
he hissed.

“Dude,” Drew laughed. “You’re such a fucking geek. Gimme that Glock.”

Dan tossed him the Glock, and Drew sniffed it. “Smells like
wrong house, mother fucker.”

“Where the fuck did Gary get this?” Dan asked, amazed. He wasn’t sure if even Indiana allowed this kind of rifle. It wasn’t set up for hunting; it was a full-fledged military style, pistol-gripped piece of badassery.

“He probably has a federal permit,” Drew said. “Looking at this house, it wouldn’t surprise me. But I’m not sure it would be required. My dad has an M16A2.”

“5.56?”

Drew grinned, nodding.

“Alright, let’s stock up and get the fuck outta here,” Dan said. “We’ll check the workshop, and maybe come back in the morning to look through the stables.”

“I bet there’s some horse shit in there,” Drew joked, stacking ammo boxes in his arms. “And maybe some horses.”

Dan shook his head, laughing. “We don’t need horses.”

Chapter Eight

 

They needed horses.

It had rained heavily all night, and the entire road was flooded. The two points where the creek and the gravel road merged were overflowed and rushing quickly. Even in the pickup, there was no getting through. The backyard was even worse. The branch of the creek that ran through Dan’s property was flooded halfway up the slope to the deck. It looked like a river.

It might as well be the freaking Nile.

“Well,” Drew said. “We could canoe around.”

Dan shrugged. “I guess we can wade over to Gary’s and grab the horses,” he replied. “We should check and make sure they’re alright anyway.”

“Wade in this shit? Are you fucking nuts?”

Dan nodded, grinning. “Yep. Let’s booze it up and go for a swim.”

 

Boozing it up probably wasn’t a good idea, Dan realized. They were waist deep in the cold, rushing water, and had to hold their shotguns over their heads to keep them dry. They both knew it was unnecessary, but it was instinct.

“I can’t see shit,” Dan shouted over the storm.

“What?” Drew shouted back.

“I said—“

“I heard you. I can’t see shit, either.”

Dan stopped, wiping his face and blinking the rain out of his eyes. He could see the gravel road ahead, poking above the rushing creek. Sheets of water ran down the grade, adding to the deluge. He couldn’t see much further, and dreaded crossing the next section of creek before entering Gary’s property.

“I’m fuckin’ drunk, man!” Drew said.

“Me too. But we gotta keep going. Almost there.”

They had just reached the upslope when Dan spotted something floating down the creek toward them. He squinted in the rain, focusing on the object as it tumbled over the twisted roots and fallen branches that lay across the surface of the water. Drew stopped, looking in the same direction.

“What the fuck is that?” he asked.

Dan shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said—but he knew.

It was a body.

It floated toward Drew, who backed away with a disgusted look on his face. Dan watched it float by, feeling a sense of revulsion when he saw its dead eyes staring into nothingness. It was a male; white, about his age. He didn’t recognize the guy, though. He must have been a hunter, as he was dressed in an orange vest that covered military-style garb. The most striking feature, however, was the man’s mouth. It gaped open; toothless, and missing its tongue.

The left arm seemed to be missing, too.

“Poor fuck,” Drew said as the body floated away.

Dan looked at him through the falling rain. “That’s not good, man,” he said.

“No, it’s not… but, why?”

“He was missing an arm,” Dan pointed out. “That means he was probably attacked out there in the forest.”

Drew pursed his lips. The rain ran over his face, dripping from his nose and chin. “Shit. Where does that creek start?”

“I’m not sure, but that way is north.” He pointed upstream. “Martinsville. But I think the creek winds through the state forest from the east.”

“Are there any other towns around?” Drew asked. “Really little ones?”

Dan shook his head. “Not on this side of 37,” he said. “But there’s Hindustan on the west side of it.”

“Hindustan?” Drew repeated. “Are you fucking shitting me?”

“Nope. But it’s pretty small. Only a street or two.”

“Well, fuck it,” Drew said. “Let’s keep going.”

Dan followed the floating corpse with his eyes as he continued on. The body got stuck a ways down on a branch. It bobbed and bounced as the creek battered it. Dan swallowed hard, turning back to follow Drew.

 

The stables were located above the water, thankfully. Though the ground was soggy and mushy, only a few puddles were present. The two men sloshed their way to the large barn as the rain pelted them unceasingly; each of them with their shotguns slung over their shoulders.

The stable doors were ajar, which was unusual for Gary. He always kept them locked to keep the horses safe from intruders. To have them standing open—even a little—was strange. Dan had the feeling that Gary had euthanized them before they could get sick. He wondered if horses were even susceptible to the orange mist.

Drew pulled the door open and they ducked inside, glad to finally be out of the rain. They were soaking wet, but the break was welcome. Dan wiped his face with his free hand, looking around the dim barn. He heard the quiet sounds of horses.

“They’re still alive,” he said.

They looked in each of the stalls. The first two horses were dead, lying on their sides and stiff as a board. The other three were alive; bumping against the sides of their stalls as they saw the two men enter. Dan reached out to pat the nearest horse on the snout.

“Hey there, buddy,” he said. The horse whinnied calmly. “How you doin’?”

Drew patted the next horse. The remaining horse snorted, calling for some attention. There was hay nearby, and Dan opened the stall gates to let the horses out to feed. They hungrily crowded around the pile, enjoying their long-awaited meal.

“I can’t believe Linda would just let these poor guys starve,” Drew said.

“Well,” Dan sighed. “She lost her best friend. She was done for. I don’t blame her.”

He looked into one of the dead horses’ stalls, opening the gate and bending down next to the huge body. It had a gunshot wound just below the left side of the jaw. Gary—or Linda—had shot it, most likely. The other horse showed the same wound.

“They must have gotten sick,” Dan said.

“Or Gary just went apeshit like Dennis did.”

“Linda said he attacked her. Maybe he did this before he got sick, himself.”

A strange yipping sound echoed from outside. It was like a coyote’s howl; only gurgling and lower pitched.

“What was that?” Drew said, gripping his shotgun.

The horses began groaning nervously, stomping their hooves and shuffling back to their stalls. The yipping continued, coming closer with each outburst.

“It kinda sounds like coyotes,” Dan said.

“That was no fucking coyote, dude.”

Dan went to the stable door, peeking through the opening to the downpour outside. He didn’t see anything—but, then again, he couldn’t see
anything.
He pulled the door closed, slamming down the beam that served as an inside lock.

Drew went to the windows, jostling the shutters to ensure they were locked. Unless the unknown creatures outside were magical beasts—or elephants—they would be safe.

“They stopped,” Drew said, “whatever they are.”

“They’re coming to investigate,” Dan said. “They probably smelled us, even through the rain.”

Sure enough, the splashing footfalls of the beasts came closer, circling around the stable. Their chuffing sounds became more frantic, almost desperate. Dan thought of removing the beam, mounting the horses, and bursting through the doors like the wind. But with the visibility next to nothing, they probably wouldn’t make it very far.

Drew pointed up at the loft. “We’d be safe up there,” he whispered.

Dan cringed. “What about the horses?”

Drew shrugged, looking around for other ideas.

BAM!

Something slammed up against the stable door, and Dan and Drew lurched back in surprise. Both had their shotguns pointed in front of them as they backed away slowly. Drew pointed up again. Dan shook his head.

BAM!

The door shuddered again, this time the hinges creaking with the impact. The fearsome yipping sound increased in intensity, and the two men began nervously gritting their teeth. Maybe Drew was right. Coyotes couldn’t climb ladders. They would definitely be safe in the loft; or, at least,
safer.
But Dan didn’t want to leave the horses. They were frightened enough as it is.

Dan instinctively closed the gate of the nearest stall, and Drew closed the other two. Then, Dan nodded. Going into the loft was the best idea. Maybe the coyotes would eat the dead horses and leave the live ones alone. Dan had never seen coyotes attack horses, especially when there were other things to eat.

“Alright,” he whispered. “Let’s go up.”

They shouldered their shotguns, and Drew climbed up first. Dan followed, keeping his eye on the stable door. The slamming had stopped, but the splashing sound of the running beast still circled the building.

The loft was dry and covered with a thin layer of straw. A pitchfork was leaning against the wall, and there were several coils of rope hanging on the walls. There were push out windows at either end large enough to hang out and get a better view. Dan crept over to the one closest to the road, swinging it out and looking around outside. He could still hear the yipping, but could see nothing. The rain had slowed somewhat, but visibility was still low.

He turned to see Drew looking out the other window. He waited for him to look back, and they both shook their heads to indicate they saw nothing. Drew turned back, sticking his head out the window to look down.

The slamming began again, and Dan looked out, straight at the ground. There was a canine shape on the ground below, just in front of the stable door. He couldn’t make out any details, just the general shape. It did look like a coyote… until it raised its head to look up.

Dan shuddered when he saw its eyes. They were red; solid red. Not glowing or luminescent in any way; simply red as blood and featureless. Its fur was pure black and matted, and its ears seemed oddly shaped for a coyote. They curved inward, appearing as horns.

“Jesus Christ,” he whispered, his heart pounding again.

The coyote beast back away again, keeping its red eyes turned upward as it contemplated its next move. Dan waved Drew over.

“What the fuck is that?” he said as Drew looked out.

“Holy shit,” Drew whispered.

Then, three others rounded the corners, gathering around their companion and glaring up at the two men. They, too, were blackish with red eyes. The largest of them was the size of a mastiff, and its eyes were more sinister and frightening than the others. Drew pulled out the Glock.

“Maybe I can hit one from here,” he said.

Dan nodded, aiming the shotgun down. He hadn’t grabbed a pistol, but the shotgun would at least scare the creatures away—he hoped. It was loaded with buckshot and would spread out too much to do any real damage from this distance. But it was better than nothing.

Drew aimed carefully, following the pacing lead beast. Dan clicked his teeth nervously, ready to pull the trigger if he needed to. Then, Drew fired.

The horses lurched in their stalls, bashing against the railings. The coyotes dashed away with surprise; all but the largest one. Though it seemed stunned, its growls echoed upward as it recovered and it turned its head back toward them, seemingly unaffected by the bullet.

“Did you hit it?” Dan asked desperately.

“Of course I hit it,” Drew said.

“Are you sure? He didn’t seem to mind!”

“I’m fuckin’ sure!”

The lead creature stepped back as the others regrouped around it. Drew fired again. This time Dan saw the spray of blood as the bullet hit. Still, the creature was unaffected. Dan aimed his shotgun, lining up the sights with the space between the creature’s burning, red eyes.

“Blow his fucking brains out,” Drew said.

Dan pulled the trigger. The coyote’s head exploded in a shower of blood and brains, throwing the remaining carcass back into the mud. The other beasts leaped against the stable wall, clawing the wood and growling demon-like as their burning red eyes glared up.

“Ok,” Drew said. “That just pissed ‘em off.”

Dan cocked the shotgun, taking aim at another coyote. A sudden yipping in the distance caught his attention, and he looked up toward the tree line near Gary’s house. An entire pack of coyotes, ravenous and snarling, charged from the trees, calling to their companions at the wall below. There were at least a dozen of them.

“Holy shit,” Dan said.

“Oh, man… we don’t have enough bullets for all of them.”

Dan sighed in exasperation. “Fuck,” he muttered. “Game over, man.”

Some of the coyotes rounded the stable, and the two men could hear them yipping and growling outside the opposite wall. Dan ran over to the opening, peering out. Three of them paced around in circles; snapping at each other, and growling as they saw him. If only he had brought one of the hunting rifles.

“They’re like the loonies,” Dan said. “Just not human.”

Drew had finally drawn his shotgun, and was pointing it downward at the group on his side. “How many shells do we have?”

Dan searched his pockets. He had a dozen, and two loaded up. “Fourteen,” he said.

Drew shuffled over to him. “Look,” he said. “We can either stay up here and pick them off one by one, or take our chances with the horses. We could mount up, unwedge the beam, and ride like Hell. Horses run faster than coyotes, right?”

Dan shrugged. “I don’t know. The coyotes are infected; they may run faster than normal.”

BOOK: Wormwood Dawn (Episode I)
7.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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